November 21, 2003

New anti-drug campaign targets Hispanics

By Crystal K. Wiebe
Scripps Howard Foundation Wire

WASHINGTON - Hispanics are the target of a new anti-drug media campaign by the government.

Starting this week, the Office of National Drug Control Policy is taking its bilingual message to the nation’s youngest and fastest-growing minority via TV, the Internet and an open letter slated to run in 84 newspapers.

John P. Walters, director of the ONDCP, said Hispanics are at a higher risk for drug use because the group is so young and drugs are predominantly a problem of youth.

“We know that one size doesn’t fit all. We’ve tried to tailor the message to a specific community,” Walters said Wednesday at a news conference.

Surgeon General Richard Carmona was part of a panel that announced the campaign.

He said the project goes along with his health literacy initiative, which also seeks to close the gap between what experts and the public know about health.

There are now more Hispanics in the country than blacks. While many younger Hispanics speak English, the 2000 Census found many Hispanics still speak Spanish at home.

The Census reported that one in three of America’s 38 million Hispanics is under age 18.

According to the panelists, Hispanics use drugs at higher rates than other groups.

Walters cited the 2002 Monitoring the Future Study that found Hispanic eighth graders had the highest rates for using most illegal drugs, including marijuana, cocaine and heroin.

Other factors related to drug use are poverty and lack of education.

The 2002 Census reported that 21.4 percent of Hispanics live in poverty, compared to 7.8 percent of non-Hispanic whites. More than two in five Hispanics 25 and older did not graduate from high school.

Except for the language, the new campaign virtually mirrors its English counterpart, which debuted in July 1998.

Both campaigns utilize similar means to spread their message, which is spelled out on their Web sites, and The English site also contains links to information in Cambodian, Korean, Chinese and Vietnamese.

Roy J. Bostock, chairman of the Partnership for a Drug-Free America, said the Hispanic version is more than a mere translation.

“Reaching Hispanic audiences is not just about communicating in Spanish. It’s about connecting them culturally with a message,” he said.

The three Spanish language TV ads highlight the influence families can have in keeping kids off drugs. The snappy public service announcements depict parents and extended family members who are interested and involved in children’s lives.

Bostock said all teens are less likely to use marijuana if they know their parents have strong feelings against it. Parental attitudes may be more important among Hispanics, who traditionally place a greater emphasis on family, he added.

Campaign press materials cited a 2002 survey in which 89 percent of Latinos agreed that relatives are more important than friends, compared to 67 percent of whites and 68 percent of African Americans.

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